A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Thursday officially unveiled their alternative to legislation aimed at combating online piracy on foreign rogue websites that has drawn opposition from tech giants like Google and Facebook.
The lawmakers--led by Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, and Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican--introduced their Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act to compete with pending legislation that critics allege is too broad and could chill speech on the Internet.
The group of lawmakers had made public last week a sketch of their proposal, which would put power to combat online piracy and copyright infringement in the hands of the U.S. International Trade Commission.
Building on the International Trade Commission's existing [intellectual property] expertise and authority makes it possible to go after legitimate cases of IP abuse without doing irreparable harm to the Internet, Wyden said in a statement. It is our hope that proponents of other approaches won't just dismiss our proposal, but will instead take this opportunity to engage us on the substance.
Those proponents are pushing the House of Representatives' Stop Online Piracy Act and the Senate's PROTECT IP Act. Those bills would allow the Department of Justice and copyright holders to get a court order blocking U.S. residents from accessing rogue foreign Web sites that are dedicated to theft of U.S. property.
An aide for the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, last week criticized Wyden and Issa's proposed legislation, arguing that expanding the ITC's jurisdiction would be a dramatic and costly expansion of the federal bureaucracy.
The aide had also suggested the proposal lacked teeth because Google would still be allowed to link to the infringing site in search results.
Groups representing content producers piled on Wyden and Issa's OPEN Act Thursday. The Motion Picture Association of America said Wyden went easy on Internet piracy.
By changing the venue from our federal courts to the U.S. International Trade Commission, it places copyright holders at a disadvantage and allows companies profiting from online piracy to advocate for foreign rogue websites against rightful American copyright holders, said MPAA Senior Executive Vice President Michael O'Leary.
Meanwhile, David Sohn, senior policy counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology, which opposed SOPA and PIPA, praised the Wyden-Issa plan for narrowly going after truly infringing Web sites with an enforcement mechanism that works.
The Wyden-Issa bill would let the ITC order payment and advertising companies to cut ties to any foreign Web site that peddles copyrighted material.
While SOPA has a similar provision, the bill also would block an Internet user from accessing a website with pirated media, a practice called domain filtering. But Sohn said circumventing such a barrier would be easy; instructions could be made available online.
The mechanism that [the Wyden-Issa] bill envisions in stopping that site is cutting it off from the payment and ad networks, Sohn told the International Business Times. It's very hard to make things disappear from the Internet.... But what you can do is starve the site of financial resources so it can't continue to operate.